THE AKASHINGA

download.jpg

The Akashinga, which means “the brave ones” in a local dialect, are an all-female armed anti-poaching unit located in the lower Zambezi valley of Zimbabwe. This area used to be a trophy hunting reserve, but now it is being reclaimed to help protect one of Africa’s largest elephant populations. 

Damien Mander founded the Akashinga, and his decision to form an all female team was a no-brainer. 

“Historically, we’d have to recruit rangers from around the country to come in and protect an area like this so they’re not influenced by the people that they grew up with in the local community. Women just don’t seem to be corruptible in that aspect,” said Mander. “I did a selection course for 189 men about six or seven years ago. At the end of day one, we had three left. At the end of day three with these women, only three had pulled off.”

Many of the Akashinga have survived abuse or are single mothers. 

Hoto, a member of the Akashinga, spoke about her former abusive husband, saying “The marriage lifetime with him was a tough time because I just saw all my goals being shattered down. I just want to prove it, that no job is meant [just] for men, and I hope I have already proven it.”

When asked about what other men think of the work they do, Vimbai, one of the top Akashinga rangers, laughed saying “They just think that we cannot do it. They are totally wrong.” The poachers who are being targeted by the Akashinga are often heavily armed, very dangerous men. On top of this, the men are sometimes members of the same village as the women in the Akashinga. 

Recently, the Akashinga tracked down 4 men with outstanding warrants on a bush-meat poaching syndicate, one of whom was also wanted for elephant poaching. These arrests have also helped authorities target poachers who use or deal cyanide, which has been used to poison hundreds of elephants in the recent past. As of May 17th, 2018, they have racked up over 42 arrests leading to sentences of up to 9 years. 

 

HAGS PodcastComment